It’s not surprising that my 21 Day Consciousness Cleanse has turned into the 50-ish day cleanse. One can only do so much with an infant. Has it helped? Yes. Do I find myself more connected to my soul’s deeper purpose? In a way. Do I recommend everyone do this? Sort of.
While I think it’s vital to pay attention to your thoughts and clear out the residue of the past, if you’ve never done this in a systematic fashion and if you don’t have someone with whom you can share it, it is likely to be too much.
One of the aspects of the cleanse that I’ve found most helpful is the Morning Practice. In the morning practice you are asked to check-in, set an intention for the day, contemplate what old patterns of thought or behavior you need give up in order for the intention to be fulfilled and create a small mantra you can repeat throughout the day to remind yourself of that intention. It doesn’t take long, there’s a template you can use.
Now for the scary part of the blog. Caring for a four month old is only part of the reason it has taken me so long to complete this cleanse. What has been getting in the way is a harrowing bout of PostPartum Bipolar Depression
Having struggled with depression since I was a teenager I thought, “I’ve done depression. I know the terrain. I can take it.”
Sparing you the gory details (though if you, a friend or loved one is struggling with PPD I’m happy to share), it’s a bit like that scene in The Princess Bride, the one where Westley is on the table in the Pit of Despair. He opens his eyes and sees the Albino sponging the wounds he got fighting off an ROUS – rodent of unusual size. Bit like giving birth.
Westley: “Where am I?”
Albino in a gravely voice: “The pit of…” cough, throat clearing, “The pit of despair. Don’t even think of trying to escape. Only the prince, the count and I know how to get in or out.”
Westley: “Then why bother curing me?”
Albino: “The count always insists on everyone being healthy before they’re broken.”
Westley: “So I’m to be tortured then.”
Albino: Vigorous head nod.
Westley: “I can cope with torture.”
Albino: More vigorous head nodding. “You survived the fireswamp, you must be very brave. But nobody withstands the machine.”
Count: “I have deep abiding interest in pain.” Turns the machine on to one.
Count: “I’ve just sucked one year of your life away. One day I may go as high as five but I really don’t know what that would do to you. Now, how do you feel? And remember, this is for posterity so be honest.”
Westley: Blubber Blubber Blubber
Friends tell me it gets easier. Those who have had PPD assure me it will get easier. In many ways it already has. I made the difficult decision to stop breastfeeding so I could take the medicine I needed. I was less heartbroken by this than I anticipated. I found a brand of organic formula from the UK that is cleaner and cheaper than American brands. I order it from Amazon and get free shipping. Now that Cole is down to five bottles a day, even that is becoming more manageable.
The little guy started sleeping through the night in July and consistently at the beginning of August. Last week I too started sleeping through the night.
I’m on more than one heavy drug. I hope to only take these for no more than a year. But if I’ve learned anything over the years it’s that my timelines never work.
Nor does my expectation of how I want things to go. For instance, throughout this ordeal I prayed and prayed for help, all the while picturing a call from a major publisher offering me a lucrative deal for the novel which would allow me to hire a nanny. That may still happen (fingers crossed!), but the lesson I’m learning from all of this is how to ask for and receive help.
A woman at church caught me in an uncharacteristically unguarded moment when I couldn’t hide the tears. Later that day I received an email telling me they wanted to help. Babysitters came over and we are getting a couple of meals a week. A friend dropped what she was doing and came over in a moment of crisis. One woman even cleaned my bathroom. My mother, God bless her, has been back and forth more than she planned. My mother-in-law flew in from St. Louis. Help is coming out of the woodwork.
During the cleanse work a couple of things stood out. One, the need to make amends to an old friend. The other, the need and perhaps even desire to teach in a more collaborative manner.
This introvert can be self-sufficient. Letting other people in personally or professionally isn’t easy. My ego takes a hit. But perhaps that is precisely the lesson I am to learn. We all need other people, even me.
Two weeks ago I took an excellent yoga class with Rachel Manetti. I had been teaching on listening that week. She taught on asking questions and recognizing that the answers often reside in more questions. This wisdom keeps showing up. I heard it again in a sermon a few days ago.
If you’ve been in class with me all this time you may now be wondering, “Is she faking it?” No, not entirely. There are several layers. The outer layer of my interaction with others and the joy I find in teaching is real. Beneath that lies a jumble of chaos. In the acute weeks and episodes of this illness those were the only two layers I could feel. Now as my psychotropic cocktail is starting to take effect, I can once again sense the bedrock, the Ground of Being beneath the chaos. I can’t always reach it but at least I can feel it again.
So how do I move forward? What comes next? How can I best serve my soul’s longings to be a good mother, wife, friend, professional? What can I do each day to bring the Ground of Being above the chaos? Where do I place my feet?
I have hints. But perhaps the real consciousness cleanse has not been in finding a clear cut path toward the longings of my heart, but in making space for the questions.